Your Eminences; brother bishops, priests and deacons; fellow religious and friends,
I’ve been in our Archdiocese less than six months. I’d be foolish to try to sum up in a few words a life as long and as significant as Cardinal Bevilacqua’s. But I do think moments like these are important. They remind us that — in the end — we’re all of us equal in our mortality, in our baptism, and in the love God bears for us.
We’re each a mixture of success and failure, selfishness and self-giving. None of our titles or public reputation, for good or for ill, finally matters. The only thing that finally matters is to be a saint; and a saint is someone willing to love and forgive others as zealously as God loves and forgives us. Love is the measure of every life, and before we weigh anyone else on that scale, we first need to weigh ourselves. God is the only accurate judge. He’s also the most merciful.
Cardinal Bevilacqua was an extraordinary man of the Church. He loved his people. He loved Philadelphia. He carried the burden of leadership at a very painful time for Catholics in this country. He gave everything he had to his ministry as priest and bishop. So it’s right for us to be here today to remember the good that he accomplished and the thousands of lives he touched through his personal kindness.
To the family and many friends of His Eminence who are here today: Thank you for the love and support you gave him as he served the rest of us. To the public officials and persons from other faith communities who have joined us today: Thank you for honoring His Eminence and the Church he loved by your presence. And to everyone in the congregation, thank you for joining your prayers to ours that God will grant Cardinal Bevilacqua the joy of eternal life in his presence.
Every book has places where a chapter ends and a new one begins. The work of witnessing what it means to be a disciple — what it really means to be a Catholic in practice, and not just in name — now belongs to us. When God said to Francis of Assisi, “repair my house,” he was speaking to all of us. We can dwell in the past, or we can renew the Church with our lives and our love.
It’s up to us. The work is now in our hands.
There’s a line in the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey that we should all keep close to our hearts: “In love, our very mistakes don’t seem to be able to last long.” We thank God for the life of Cardinal Bevilacqua and commend him to the Lord he served with such deep dedication. And when we leave here today, let’s forgive each other, and love the Church, and support each other as believers and brothers and sisters — and begin again.